It has been 16 months since any casinos in British Columbia have been open to the public, but land-based gaming is about to be back on the table.
The province is set to move into Step 3 of its reopening plan on July 1, when most remaining restrictions will be lifted. That date had hinged on 70 per cent of British Columbians being vaccinated with a first dose. As of June 23, 77 per cent of adults in the province had received their first shot.
As a result, the imminent move to Step 3 means casinos will be allowed to reopen with limited capacity for the first time since March 2020.
Great Canadian Gaming Corporation is one operator looking forward to reopening numerous properties, including River Rock Casino Resort, Hard Rock Casino Vancouver, Elements Casino Victoria, Elements Casino Surrey, Casino Nanaimo, Elements Casino Chilliwack, Hastings Racecourse, Chances Maple Ridge, and Chances Dawson Creek.
“This is another exciting development for Great Canadian and our recovery from the impact of the pandemic,” stated Terrance Doyle, the company’s Interim Chief Executive Officer. “Importantly, these reopenings mean over 1,000 of our team members returning to work and generating revenue for the Province and our communities. With the reopening of our properties in Ontario on the horizon, we are poised to begin rebuilding our business.”
Gateway Casinos & Entertainment is also finally able to reopen all of its B.C. properties.
CEO Tony Santo said the company is excited to relaunch gaming and welcome back its employees and customers into “a very safe environment for gaming and dining.”
“As always, the health and safety of our employees and customers are paramount,” he added. “We look forward to a safe and steady restart and the return to full operations as soon as possible.”
Another venue that is reopening on Canada Day is Parq Vancouver, which like many casinos has taken the time during shutdown to revamp its gaming floors and offerings. Parq will also unveil KOI and Luna, two exclusive, full-service gaming salons complete with chef-prepared menu.
A safe return
Meanwhile, British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC) says players will be able to safely connect in person with GameSense Advisors, BCLC’s player-health specialists, as they return to casinos and community gaming centres. In addition, GameSense Information Centres have been reconfigured to support the health and wellbeing of players and employees through decreased capacity and physical barriers, such as plexiglass, where required.
“Our GameSense Advisors are eager to be back on site after more than a year, to reconnect with players and support healthy play,” says Dr. Jamie Wiebe, BCLC’s Director of Player Health. “GameSense Advisors are excellent listeners and whether players stop by the GameSense Information Centre to chat about their day, how the games work, or odds of winning, we know that these interactions result in players feeling more informed and connected to available resources, and further support if needed.”
When facilities reopen, BCLC notes that players will see changes to support a careful and safe restart, including:
- At least two metres of space between table games, slot machines and other gambling equipment to support physical distancing.
- Physical barriers (such as plexi-glass) where physical distancing is not possible or where casino employees, such as dealers or cash-cage staff, must interact with players.
- Reduced occupancy to as many players as there are active seats available on the gaming floor, in combination with occupancy for amenities such as restaurants and lounges.
- Adjusted availability of table games to those in which cards can be dealt face up; players will not be permitted to touch cards which the exception of Squeeze Baccarat, which utilizes one-time use cards.
- In addition, casino staff will be required to complete detailed training about enhanced health and safety protocols, and will continue to monitor capacity and other facility standards, including air quality.
“Players will notice that they look a little bit different than they did more than a year ago,” said BCLC’s Lara Gerrits. “There’ll be things like spacing between table games and slot machines; there’ll be new physical barriers – plexiglass – where physical distancing is not possible; capacity will be limited to about 65 per cent of active gaming seats … There won’t be congregation of people allowed to occur when we do reopen.”
Boosting British Columbia
Whenever reopening does materialize, it will be a huge boost for not only the gaming industry in B.C., but the entire province.
Private-sector casino service providers operate gambling facilities under contract with BCLC and directly employ approximately 10,000 British Columbians. In 2019-20, casinos and community gaming centres generated $929 million of the $1.3 billion in net income that BCLC delivered to the province to support investments in healthcare and education, community programs and First Nations.
In addition, host communities of casinos and community gaming centres receive a 10 per cent share of net gaming revenue generated by gambling facilities within their jurisdiction when they are operating, and B.C First Nations share in seven per cent of total net gaming revenue collected annually throughout the province.